Relevance of Online Reviews to Business Communication

When running a business, reputation is an extremely important factor for attracting customers. Today’s consumer is highly likely to rely on reviews when making a purchasing decision. The best frame of reference to gauge what their experience will be like, is to know what kind of experience another consumer had (Pozin, 2015). It can be simple, such as where to have dinner on a night out, or more serious, such as choosing the right surgeon for an operation. According to a BrightLocal’s 2014 survey of nearly 5,000 consumers in North America, 88% of people read reviews to determine the quality of a local business (Pozin, 2015). Social media and online review sources play a key role in feeding the economy as it provides a venue for customers to share opinions about a product or service. It gives the business a chance to not only see the customer’s feedback, but also make changes to correct any potential problems.

Many companies use online review sites as a way to rectify any issues the consumer had with a service or product, extending customer service to a level that did not even exist 20 years ago. With this digital age, consumers want immediate access to reviews when shopping, dining out, or traveling. The shift to online communication with customers is essential for a business to succeed (Scarlat & Maxim, 2009).

Review websites impact businesses all the time, in both positive and negative respects. Reviews for a business are also competitive. For example, if one hotel on Trip Advisor has great reviews, and one down the street has negative reviews, the hotel that received higher ratings will obtain more business from consumers using the review site. The same can be said with leaving feedback in a review. A restaurant owner may check Zomato and see that another restaurant in town is doing happy hour. In order to remain in competition, the restaurant owner may also add a happy hour or special to attract customers. Reviews through social media provide an opportunity for a business to stay competitive and continually improve the customer experience (Booth, 2012).

When it comes to correcting issues consumers have, social media reviews play a key role. In 2013, the review website Yelp announced the LIVES (Local Inspector Value-Entry Specification) standard, meaning Yelp was implementing an initiative to make health department inspection scores visible by adding them to the restaurants’ review page (Booth, 2012). This would give consumers access to inspection results and a violation detail, which was an innovative way for Yelp to attract more viewers and show the validity of the reviews. For any product or service, looking at negative reviews can help a business see what the business need to improve on, which is why almost 80% of major global companies market the brand and communicate with the public on social media sites (Guffey & Loewy, 2013).

Social media reviews are relevant to business communication because the reviews provide an outlet for the consumers to leave feedback for a product or service, and for the producer to leave a response. Modern communication techniques permit businesses to reach more of the public faster, through sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Yelp (Scarlat & Maxim, 2009). This allows consumers to receive honest reviews of products and services, instead of only being exposed to the message the company sends out in mass media advertising. Online review sites bring the consumer an open, free venue to discuss the consumer concerns, communicate with the consumer, and leave positive feedback, bringing in more customers for a producer. All of these factors help consumers make decisions when making a purchase.